Though it feels like hockey training camp must be right around the corner, we are still a few weeks away from when the Leafs begin their work in earnest. In truth, I don’t have a whole lot new to say today, but I do have a question for those who have followed the team’s off-season’s moves.
I sense most Leaf fans are at least moderately optimistic about what Brendan Shanahan has done in his relatively short time with the organization. They did not over-spend on free agents. GM Dave Nonis has made a number of somewhat under-the-radar signings, and at a modest price. He has not made the big splash, though he has re-signed Jake Gardiner and James Reimer as well. The third and fourth lines should have a new look, and we have added a couple of defensemen who will add some experience and physicality to the Leaf blueline.
All this said, as I’ve written here at VLM in the past, summertime is always, it seems, a hopeful time for Leaf fans. The reality of losing streaks is a distant, perhaps forgotten memory. And new players always bring hope that things will be better this time around.
(On that summertime note, I always remember reading a story when I was a youngster back in the 1960s, about then Leaf centerman Dave Keon. Keon said in an interview that, for him, the only time the off-season dragged was toward the middle of August, because he was anxious for training camp to start at the beginning of September. You can sense that with players nowadays, too, because a lot of Leafs get together for informal skates and scrimmages well before camp officially begins.)
But my question is this: as we start to look ahead to training camp and some exhibition games in September, is there really and truly a reason to be optimistic heading into the new season, or are we seeing yet another blue and white mirage?
Maybe as importantly, if you are in an optimistic frame of mind, are you optimistic about the Leafs a) simply being better than last season b) becoming a playoff team or c) actually being on the cusp of being a contender in the Eastern Conference?
To me, those are all reasons for optimistic, absolutely, but they are also very different levels of expectation.
I look forward to some good old-fashioned VLM discussion on this one. Is this year going to be different? Are you hopeful and if so, what will constitute success for the Leafs in your mind as you look ahead to this coming season?